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who leads the singing, knows all the habitues and cracks jokes to keep the fun going.
The stock in trade of the caller is his chant, consisting of rhymed instructions to the dancers which vary with each figure and often with each tune. The old-time calls are savory with humor and the old-time caller often has his own variations. There was, for example, a time and a place where the country dance began with the caller's instructions to—
Hang up your coat And spit on the wall Choose your partners And promenade all!
It is the caller's job to announce each figure in the dance just as it begins, and thus to maintain a constant flow of unbroken motion as the changing patterns are executed. If he is calling for a group of expert dancers, it is part of the game for him to call unexpected variations in an effort to catch someone napping. Exact rhymes are unimportant details in such a chant as:
Run across and don't get lost, And give your opposite lady a toss.
Around you go just like a wheel; The faster you go, the better you feel.
Meet that gal and hug her tight.
Don't forget your date for Wednesday night.
Sometimes a caller's song may describe the whole action of a sequence of figures, as:
Two gents cross over And by your opposite stand.
Next two gents cross over And all join hands.
Salute your corner lady.
Salute your partners, all. Swing your corner lady
And promenade the hall!